Heavy Machinery Litigation
Heavy Machinery Litigation
Accidents caused by construction equipment, such as cranes, backhoes, bulldozers, front-end loaders, and skid-steer loaders, and manufacturing equipment often leave the victims dead or living with severe disabilities. Many of these accidents are just that -- unavoidable consequences of dangerous industries. Other construction accidents can be avoided with safer equipment, better warnings, or both. As a result of the avoidability of some construction accidents, manufacturers, distributors and sellers of heavy machinery have often been held liable for injuries sustained as a result of defects in the machinery or as a result of improper warnings.
Defective Design Cases
To prevail in an action against a seller of heavy machinery on a defective design theory, the plaintiff must show that the machinery was sold in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to the user or consumer's property and that:
- the seller was in the business of selling the machinery in question; and
- the machinery was expected to and did reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.
This rule applies even if the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of his product and the user or consumer has not bought the product from or entered into any contractual relation with the seller.
In one case, a court ruled in favor of a worker injured by a tractor manufactured and sold by the manufacturer to a retailer. The retailer made a change to one of the tractor's stem fittings. The court ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the defendant was strictly liable for selling a defective product despite the fact that it had been interfered with by the retailer. The court also determined that the jury was correct in concluding that the machinery was defective before the retailer intervened.
To reach a jury on a failure-to-warn theory of liability, the evidence must be such as to support a reasonable inference, rather than a guess, that the existence of an adequate warning might have prevented the injury. Most jurisdictions have adopted a rebuttable presumption that a warning, if given, would have been heeded. This means that the manufacturer of the equipment has the burden of proving that the user of the equipment would not have heeded a warning if one had been given.
In a case involving a paper-winding machine, a court ruled in favor of a worker whose hand and forearm were crushed when he accidentally stepped on an electric foot switch that activated the machine. The worker alleged that the foot switch was defective because it lacked the safety cover guard that would have prevented accidental contact and because of the manufacturer's failure to provide any warnings of the danger of using the unguarded model around heavy machinery in a plant or factory. The court ruled that the manufacturer of the machine failed to rebut the presumption that the worker would have heeded a warning about the foot switch if it had been given.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.